In 2019, a copper cannonball which was just slightly bigger that a tennis ball was hurled towards a near-Earth asteroid called Ryugu by the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in order to learn more about the composition of the asteroid.
About a year after firing the ball into the asteroid, the scientists were able to analyze the data that was captured by the cameras aboard Hayabusa 2, and were able to learn more about the space rock which is 195 miles away from earth.
The copper cannonball that was deployed by the aircraft was equipped with a device packed with plastic explosives or also known as a Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI) , which was intended to create an artificial crater on the surface of the asteroid.
After the SCI was deployed, Hayabusa2 immediately moved to a safer distance from the asteroid's orbit and blast site. However, in order to document the blast, a small camera called DCAM3 was deployed before the detonation and floated about half a mile away from the blast site.
According to a latest study regarding the space probe, the impact caused by the SCI created a crater that is nearly 33 feet wide on the asteroid's surface. The impact also sent up a plume of material that was captured by the camera in detail.
Based on the studies, the SCI left behind a semi-circle crater with an elevated rim, a central pit and an asymmetrical pattern of ejected material. The asymmetric pattern was believed to have been caused by a larger boulder beneath the crater.
Composition of Ryugu
The researchers also have reason to believe that the composition of Asteroid Ryugu may include materials similar to loose sand on Earth based on the materials that were released by the impact.
Furthermore, the photos that were captured by the spacecraft revealed that there is an even distribution of rough and dark rocks on the surface of the asteroid. Also, it was observed that those rocks are bright and smooth. The leftover rubble that was formed after its parent body was hit, led scientists to believe that there are two kinds of materials on the asteroid.
It was also observed that the rocks on the asteroid are similar to primitive meteorites, carbonaceous chondrites. Some of the rocks contain inclusions or small, colored materials that could contain minerals such as olivine. Olivine is also found on carbonaceous chondrites.
Asteroids can tell how the solar system came to be
The researchers also believe that there is a possibility that the highly porous structure of carbon-rich asteroids is somewhat similar to planetesimals, the same material that makes up the planets in the solar system.
Moreover, since asteroids are basically leftovers from the beginning of the solar system, studying them could she light on the process of how the planets formed. However, as of the moment, there is still no evidence that proves these theories.